107 Best Cruise Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Freebies

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26. Ask your room steward for a foam egg crate pad for the bed

If you find the bed uncomfy, you don’t have to just grin and bear it. Ask your room steward if there is an egg-crate you can use. They keep a supply of them on the ship to help make lumpy beds more comfortable for guests.

27. Sound can travel within the cabins when you make whoopie

No, the walls of your cabin aren’t paper thin, but sounds can travel between room. Keep this in mind if you decide to engage in “activities” in your cabin. You have to remember that you are in a small, confined space with lots of people around. Not everyone wants to hear what you do in the privacy of your cabin (especially if it happens late at night). Keeping things a little quiet can make sure that your fun doesn’t mess with anyone else’s vacation.

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28. Breakfast and lunch are also served in the main dining room

Everyone knows about dinner in the main dining room… but they usually eat the buffet for lunch and breakfast. If you want something higher quality, head to the main dining room instead of the buffet. They serve both meals, but with much smaller crowds. Best of all, the food is usually better as well as it’s made fresh.

29. While there are lots of rules… you can usually get away with breaking them

There is a difference between rules and laws. Break a law and you’ll get busted. But break a rule, and you could just get a slap on the hand. For instance, if you don’t want to wear formal clothes on formal night, then don’t.

Cruise lines want everyone to have a good time. If you break a rule, they will usually just ask you to stop doing it. It’s very rare that they will kick you off the ship unless you are endangering other passengers.

30. Don’t think the “drink of the day” is a deal

Each day the bar will have a different drink of the day special. But just because they highlight it doesn’t mean it’s a deal. Often times the cruise lines just call it the “drink of the day” to get you to buy it, but don’t cut the price.

31. Check out the “secret decks” on your ship

Many ships have decks that not easily accessible, but are still public. These are fun spots to find on the ship, especially if you are looking for a little more privacy and to get away from the crowds. Click here to see a list of Carnival ships with these secret decks.

32. Cruise ships are a great place for spreading a virus

You know why you always hear about norovirus on cruise ships? That’s because if you were going to create the perfect place to spread a virus, you would build a cruise ship. Having thousands of people in an enclosed place and the same dining facilities is ripe for spreading illness. To keep healthy, definitely use hand sanitizer, which is available all over the ship.

33. Creepy? Larger ships will have a morgue

It’s macabre, but if you’re on a larger ship, then it likely has a morgue on board. It’s actually a good idea if you think about it. Cruise ships are carrying thousands of people 365 days a year. It’s a law of averages that someone will eventually pass away while on the ship. With a morgue on board they can keep the body in good condition until reaching a port.

34. Save money by asking for the “drink of day” in a regular glass

The “drink of the day” typically comes in a souvenir glass that you get to keep. If you want to save a few bucks, just ask for that drink in a regular glass. It will normally save you a couple of bucks while not being any smaller.

35. You can get in-room babysitting while you go party late at night

A cruise tip for you parents: You likely know that your cruise will have kid’s areas where you can drop the kids off and head to the pool or dinner. But some cruise lines like Carnival actually offer private in-room babysitting. It’s a great service that costs a little extra, but can keep your mind at ease if you want to go out and enjoy an evening on the ship. Here are some details from Carnival:

For the convenience of our guests, Camp Ocean offer Night Owls for children 6 months to 11 years, allowing parents time to enjoy the nightlife without having to worry about their little ones.

  • Night Owls is available each evening from 10:00pm-1:00am.
  • Night Owls is not available during the hours that Camp Ocean is closed or during their scheduled activities, which typically run from 10:00am-1:00pm, 2:00pm-5:00pm and 7:00pm-10:00pm.
  • $6.75 per hour plus a 15% gratuity, per child
  • No discount for additional children
  • Fees are due upon pick-up and paid via Sail & Sign Card directly to the Youth Staff on duty. Cash is not an acceptable form of payment.

36. Ports of call aren’t always idyllic

Sure, the photos on the cruise line website show crystal blue water, white sand beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. Truth is, however, that many port cities aren’t that nice — especially outside of the touristy area. The Caribbean is rife with poverty and many of the people depend on the tourism dollars that cruise passengers bring. That means you can expect people hustling to make a dollar. You might find them pushy as they aggressively try to get you into a taxi or to their store.

37. It’s a floating city… where you only see part of it

You might go back and forth on the cruise ship and think you’ve seen every nook and cranny by the time you leave. There are places, however, where you will never set foot. Hidden away primarily on the lower decks are spots like the engine room, crew quarters, service areas, and more. There are some “backstage” tours that you can take, but they are highly limited in the number of passengers that can go.

38. Your balcony isn’t as private as you think

Thinking of sunbathing “al fresco” on your balcony? Want to get a little risque with your partner in the fresh air? Keep in mind that your balcony isn’t all that private. The dividers between balconies are low to allow wind to pass through. They also are several inches above the floor to allow water to flow. That means anyone in the balcony next to you could easily see what’s going on without much effort.

Ship balcony
There isn’t much space between balconies.

39. Your ability to sneak in alcohol depends on a lot of factors

If you’re interested in sneaking in booze, then you should know the cruise lines are getting smarter by the day. Trust us, you aren’t going to smuggle alcohol aboard in a new way that they haven’t yet seen. Still, you can sneak drinks by them depending on the circumstances. If the cruise is especially busy, they don’t have time to check every single bag. As long as you’re smart about your smuggling technique, there is a good chance you can get something by them.

40. Yes, some people get offered random upgrades to their cabin

Ever heard of the “upgrade fairy”? Many cruise passengers get random calls from the cruise lines offering upgrades from lower-grade rooms to higher-quality accommodations for super cheap. For example, upgrading from an interior room to a balcony room for just $200. It’s a way for the cruise line to make a little more money and for passengers to get a much better room.

How do you get a visit from the upgrade fairy? So far it appears random, but you will definitely have more luck if you are booked on a cruise where there is less demand (such as off-season cruises where rooms are harder to fill).

41. It’s so much cheaper to drink in port

Want to know the cheapest place to drink on a cruise? It’s in port! If you want to get a good buzz going, check out the bars and restaurants in the area. Many of them not only have cheap drinks every day, but offer drink specials to entice cruisers to stop in. If you plan on drinking a lot, get your fill in port and then walk back to the cruise ship that evening. For more tips on drinking cheaper, read this article.

42. You can always order your favorite dish, even if it’s not on the menu.

Wasn’t the chicken cordon bleu fantastic last night? Wish you could get it tonight? You can. Even if you don’t see an entree on the menu in the dining room, don’t think you can’t get it. Simply ask your waiter if it’s available. This also works if you have a dish you’d like cooked up that isn’t even on the menu for your entire cruise.

43. Your itinerary isn’t set in stone

Your itinerary can change… right up until you dock in a port. The cruise lines have made adjustments to schedules based on everything from weather to protests. While it doesn’t happen often, changes are regular enough that you shouldn’t be surprised if one happens to your trip.

44. Cruise line transfers from the airport are a terrible deal

When you fly in for your cruise, you have to also arrange for transportation from the airport to the cruise port. We usually recommend a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft. What you don’t want to do is take the transfers offered by the cruise line.

Cruise line transfers seem like a great idea — after all, if you’re getting a ride from the cruise company to the port, you know you won’t miss your ship. However, the cruise transfers only run on the day of the cruise. That means if you fly in a day early for your trip, you are out of luck.

They are also expensive. For example, Carnival charges $30 roundtrip per person to get you from the Miami airport to the Port of Miami — a 10 mile ride. Compare that to a taxi or Uber, which will charge you about $35 roundtrip for up to four passengers. Meanwhile, with a taxi or other transportation, you aren’t tied to the cruise shuttle’s schedule.

45. Cruise prices are the same on every website

Think you have to search site after site to get the best cruise deal? Think again. We’ve discovered that the cruise prices are actually the same across all websites.

That’s not to say that prices won’t change (they will), but when a price moves, you’ll see it reflected everywhere. Just pick your favorite spot to search and stop worrying if another website has it cheaper. (Hint: Costco usually has great incentives.)

Here’s a roundup of prices that we recently found:

Table of cruise fares

46. Want to wear a thong bikini? Have fun!

Are you the type that likes to show a little more with your swimsuit? Then you’ll be happy to know there are no rules on wearing thong bikinis on a cruise.

While you can wear a thong on a cruise, we would suggest having a little discretion. If you plan to wear one, then keep around the adults-only pools. Some people may not enjoy having you showing your bum around families and children that will be around the regular pools.

Thong swimsuit
Yep, you can wear it.

47. Head to the back of the ship (and lower decks) if you want more privacy

With 4,000 people on a ship, you’ll find that there can be crowds everywhere. If you want to find a quiet, out of the way place, head to the back of the ship. For some reason these spots on the ships are simply forgotten. We’ve gone to the back of the ship after dinner and been literally the only people there.

Want even more privacy? Head to the back of the ship on the lower decks. As a general rule of thumb, the lower you go on the deck of a ship, the fewer people are around.

48. Use walkie-talkies to keep in touch aboard the ship

It can be tough to keep in touch with the rest of your traveling party. For instance, if you let your teenage kids have the run of the ship for the day, how do you tell them it’s time for dinner?

A simple set of walkie-talkies from Amazon can make keeping connected much easier. They aren’t the perfect solution — the signal can have trouble getting through the steel of the ship if you are separated by several decks. That said, it’s a pretty simple solution to communicate both on the ship and on shore.

49. The room thermostats may not control anything

Every cabin comes with a thermostat. In our experience, they are just there for looks. It would make sense that the thermostats wouldn’t work. Having 2,000 different cabins with different A/C temperatures would be a nightmare. Don’t be surprised if you crank down the air but don’t feel much relief. That’s why we suggest bringing a portable fan.

50. Show up late to boarding to get on the ship fastest

If you show up to board right when the boarding window opens, you can expect to do a lot of waiting. There is always a mad rush to board the ship right as it opens, which leads to long lines.

What most people don’t realize is that showing up later actually lets your board faster. Get to the port about an hour before the boarding window closes and you’ll find no lines. It usually only takes about 10-15 minutes to get checked-in and board, all without having to fight huge crowds.

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107 Best Cruise Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Freebies

38 COMMENTS

  1. These were all very helpful tips, many of which we have used on our past cruises. Another tip is: The walls in the cabins are metal, even if they don’t look like it. We take magnetic clips and hooks and use them to hold all the papers that are left in the cabin mailbox as well as to hang things that might need to dry. It helps keep the cabin organized.

  2. Bring a hole punch for your ship card to put on a lanyard–some ships have them in the casino-just ask them to punch a hole and give you the lanyard–makes it easy to carry card around neck.

  3. Excellent post that was concise and highly informative. Just the recommendation to look for off port parking saved me over $100 dollars. The shuttle to the ship only took us 10 minutes and we were dropped off closer to the ship than the people that parked in the ship parking area.

  4. Leaving your car at your home airport for a week or more can run up a pretty big bill. If you have the time, consider renting a car from the airport the day before your flight. When you return it to the airport just take the auto rental shuttle to the terminal. Do the opposite when you return home. We are Costco members and can rent a near new (more likely to make it to the airport or it will be replaced if it breaks down) for $25 to $30 per day.

    • Great Idea! We’re in FL and to drive and park at any other port besides Port Canaveral (we’re 20 minutes away from that, and can always find someone to drop us off) will cost at least another $160. Gas, parking fees, etc. We can rent a car here ($35) drive it to the port and turn it in. Do the same for the trip home. We’ve just saved $90 bucks, and don’t have to worry about leaving the car in some lot, or putting up to an extra 400 miles on it! (if we go to Miami round trip that is!)

  5. Great tips people!
    Going on our first cruise in December (Princess cruises. Miami to LA. Via Panama Canal)
    Any other advice/tips very welcome!

  6. It’s good to know that breakfast and lunch are also served in the main dining room, rather than just the buffet. My wife and I are hoping that we can go on a sunset cruise tour for our anniversary. We’ll have to check out the main dining room for food, as well as seeing if there are any secret decks if we can make it on a cruise.

  7. #95. EXTREAMLY BAD IDEA! A passport can be voided if random non official stamps are in it. Only official government immigration stamps are allowed

    • That’s “technically” true, however, we’ve never heard of it happening. We’ve also personally had these stamps in our passport and never had any questions about them.

    • if you are in the Port and you ask the Port Athorites where to get your passport stamped then it is not a “voidable” stamp. Because it is issued by that countries government. Those stamps would be part of the Visa Program if the passport was NOT from the US, I.E. if the Passport was Chinese the cruises might have needed a Visa in the first place and that stamp would end up being part of the Visa.

  8. The last time I cruised, our cruise critic group had a meet & greet, a gift exchange, a slot game and a special farewell luncheon. If someone from the group gets together with the hospitality people, they can arrange snacks, special meals and gifts for your groups. This was on the Celebrity and it was fantastic.

  9. One of the worse things you can suggest and encourage is bringing fruit and food ashore. When you come into the USA, fruit and certain foods are NOT allowed to be brought into the country. Respect this when traveling to other countries. It’s the LAW there too!

    • Australia has very strict biosecurity regulations. No food of any type will be allowed in to the country. There will be a quarantine inspection at each port and sometimes even sniffer dogs will be present. This will happen at each port of call in Australia, even if the cruise visits only Australian ports.

  10. Thank you for the information as it is very helpful as well as those that offered others. We are going on our first cruise ever right after Thanksgiving. It is our 25th anniversary and we are looking forward to it.

  11. You really shouldn’t put any unofficial stamps in your passport. It even says in the fine print in the back that any unofficial markings inside could invalidate your passport. It most likely won’t ever happen unless you end up with an unforgiving immigration officer and then you’re stuck! I got off with a warning once and thankfully my passport has been renewed since then! Don’t risk it!

    • Our opinion is that it’s a decent idea, but it’s not like you’ll get amazing deals that aren’t anywhere else. They often give you onboard credit to book. Prices are around what you’ll find online.

    • Many cruise companies offer matching deposits on future cruises when booked on board. I believe Norwegian matches up to $250.

      • Yes you can get a good deal when you book whilst on board, we did, got $250 for the next cruise which we are going to use on our next cruise., used it for the deposit.

    • Not that we’ve seen. We would suggest using only non-marking items — so tape, not glue — to stick things to the door.

  12. We always bring water shoes when we cruise. Some excursions require them & they’re also a less slippery alternative to flip-flops on the pool deck.

  13. Thank Youall !

    Always bring a list of what you need too.

    Duct Tape has so many uses.. Highlighter to mark the Daily Programs too.

    Now with those dang Electric Swithes when you leave your cabin.. Bring an Old Credit Card to insert and Duct tAPE THAT TOO..

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